Greenwald’s polemical tone does not lessen the disturbing quality of these revelations.




Personalized account by Greenwald (With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, 2011, etc.) regarding his encounters with Edward Snowden and their exposure of the National Security Agency's program of “indiscriminate mass surveillance.”

The author’s crisp, comprehensible outrage reflects the profound issues raised by Snowden’s whistle-blowing: “Thanks to Snowden’s bravery…we have an unparalleled firsthand look at the details of how the surveillance system actually operates.” Greenwald first examines how the secretive Snowden reached out to him due to his experience in writing about the NSA. After contentious negotiations with his Guardian editors, Greenwald traveled to Hong Kong to interview Snowden prior to the first articles revealing the NSA’s telephone and Internet monitoring endeavors: “He exuded an extraordinary equanimity when talking about what the US government might do to him,” writes the author. Next, Greenwald delves into a healthy selection of the NSA documents, providing excerpts and interpretations of PowerPoint presentations, training manuals and internal memos that demonstrate the chilling literality of the NSA’s unofficial motto, “Collect It All.” The author portrays the NSA as the epitome of Orwellian overreach, "the definitive rogue agency: empowered to do whatever it wants with very little control, transparency, or accountability." Greenwald then narrates the response to these revelations, which included Snowden and himself being slandered as rabble-rousers. The author’s partner was even detained at Heathrow Airport, while journalists like David Gregory suggested that Greenwald should face criminal charges. He depicts these responses to the legitimacy of his reporting for the Guardian as both menacing and absurd, while the “attacks on Snowden were of course far more virulent.” Greenwald’s caustic assessment of this response, and his close analysis of NSA documents and tactics, go a long way to support his assessment that “[g]iven the actual surveillance the NSA does, stopping terror is clearly a pretext.”

Greenwald’s polemical tone does not lessen the disturbing quality of these revelations.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1627790734

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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